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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Explained: Why Ellen and Weah Kept Liberia Poor

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Prominent Liberian politician and economist Samuel Jackson blames two of his allies who have governed the country since the end of the civil war for keeping the West African nation of 5.5 million people poor.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and now outgoing leader George Weah preference for foreign dominance in the domestic economy is what driving poverty in Liberia, Jackson a British educated economists said in a post on his official Facebook account.

Below is the full text:

Is Liberian economic empowerment possible? Will the Boakai administration champion the cause of Liberians getting rich and prosperous in our own country?

The previous administrations, Ellen and Weah especially in our postwar democratic dispensation have been woefully inept and complicit in keeping Liberians poor and maintaining the foreign domination of the Liberian economy.

Liberians deserve better. We need to take charge of our own destiny by insisting that we too enjoy the benefits of our rich land. I wrote a book, Rich Land Poor Country, that tells the story of why we are a poor nation in a rich land.

Minerals galore. 350 miles of Ocean. Proximity to markets in Europe and North America. A young population. Beautiful people.

During my TRC testimony in 2004, I was asked by Commissioner Gerald Coleman why are we a poor nation?

I blurted out stupidity as the leading cause of our entrenched poverty. The inability of our minds to connect prosperity to good governance, domestic resource mobilization and economic empowerment through an aggressive policy driven approach.

The government should make its primary objective the economic empowerment of its citizens. Giving privileges and promoting affirmation actions exclusively for our citizens.

In 2010, the Ellen Administration was being pressured by the gnomes of the international system to remove all restrictions on foreign direct investments.

The World Bank through the IFC, the U.S. Embassy through its ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield and the EU wrote a concept note calling for the removal of restrictions that reserved certain businesses for Liberians.

They wrote 3 pages detailing the benefits of removing restrictions on FDI. I volunteered as a consultant to the Liberia Business Association (LIBA) and wrote 20 pages countering their nonsensical and illogical proposal. I proved that over 120

countries maintain some form of control on foreigners doing certain businesses. The U.S. restricts newspaper and tv companies to U.S. citizens. Canada restricts ownership of mineral rights to its citizens. Foreigners cannot be taxi drivers in Mexico. Botswana requires direct ownership of its citizens in all mineral exploits.

Ghana restricts and makes it near impossible for foreigners to enter the wholesale and retail markets.

You must invest 300,000 USD and employ ten Ghanaians to do wholesale and retail in Ghana. That’s on the first page of the Ghanaian Investment Act.

I didn’t come home to Liberia in December of 1978 as a 25 year old bank trade finance specialist to overthrow a government and sow seed of political discord. I came home to participate in local economic empowerment.

I was hired as Deputy comptroller at the Ministry of Finance. My thoughts were to develop a procurement and government payment system to benefit Liberians.

I also wanted to empower Liberian traders to import from sources abroad but both objectives were obstructed by a financial and trading architecture that excluded Liberians. That system continues today.

It excludes the vast majority of Liberians, primarily the market women from moving up the trade and commerce ladder. It maintains foreigners and new citizens as the primary beneficiaries of the 2.5 billion dollar trading economy.

Onions and tomatoes. All manner of food and beverages. New automobiles. All controlled by foreigners.

Our 2000 Mining Code requires up to 15 percent equity participation by Liberians in all Class A mining licenses. I was on the team that wrote it. Dr. Fodee Kromah was the Chief Consultant. I was also involved in the writing of the NOCAL Act of 2000. The Act requires that Liberians own 20 percent equity in all oil blocks.

The Petroleum Act of 2002 requires all contracts 3 million or lower in the industry, such as catering and service deliveries be restricted to Liberians. Unfortunately none of the previous governments in our postwar democratic dispensation has sought to respect the laws to promote Liberian economic empowerment.

There can be no long term political stability in Liberia  without massive reduction in poverty rates through aggressive economic empowerment of Liberians. Failure to do so will result in a perpetually poor country in an abundantly rich land.

That’s why my energies will be directed to Liberian economic empowerment now and in the last days of my life. The fight is on! During the Ellen Administration my life was threatened by some people in the mining industry because I fought against the illegal grants of mining concessions to unqualified foreign companies.

My daughters were threatened for murder when I exposed illegal logging in the now famous PUP scandal. I reported these to the relevant authorities.

The courage and fearlessness I had in my 20’s are not extinguished. I will be fighting for my people. For prosperity and stability. And so it goes.

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